For three days in August, the little island of Sado in Japan resounds with the sounds of taiko drums, song, and dance. Welcome to Japan’s longest-running music festival, Earth Celebration, where reverberating drums seem to become the heartbeat of the island itself.
The festival has been hosted by the famous taiko drum group Kodo since 1988, and is a rare chance to see them perform on their home turf. It has something of a cult following, with many music lovers braving the long trip by train and ferry to experience the powerful performances by the “children of the drum,” as members of the group are sometimes called.
Sado has a history of being the ultimate destination for exiled troublemakers, and the butterfly-shaped island’s wild nature and uninterrupted views of the Sea of Japan certainly add to the remote feeling. While not all that difficult to reach, the slightly inconvenient location means that the island remains pristine and the festival is not overrun with selfie stick-wielding gawkers, so you can focus on enjoying the music and company of other live music enthusiasts.
Know Before You Go
There are two main ways to get to Sado Island and the festival grounds. The first is traveling by bullet train from Tokyo to Joetsu Myoko Station, taking a bus or taxi from there to Naoetsu Port, and then catching a high-speed ferry to Ogi. This will allow you to get directly to the part of Sado where most of the festivities are centered.
Alternatively, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Niigata Station, take a bus or taxi to Niigata Port, and take a car ferry or jetfoil to Ryotsu. From there it takes about one hour by car to reach the festival grounds in Ogi.